We take a look at the upcoming ELEAGUE Major which will see 16 of the best CS:GO teams on the planet slug it out for a share of $1 million.
The best CS:GO teams on the globe are gathering in Atlanta to do battle for their share of a cool $1 million at the ELEAGUE Major.
The first Major of the year is always a mouthwatering prospect for CS:GO fans -and generally throws up some very interesting match-ups and results, as the sides struggle to shake off the rust from the holiday period.
If the way things ended last year is anything to go buy, this could prove to be one of the most unpredictable tournaments yet, so let’s take a look at each of the contenders and what they bring to the event.
There was a point, back in late 2015/early 2016, when it seemed like Fnatic would never lose another tournament. They claimed eight victories on the bounce, until their talisman, olofmeister, injured his wrist.
They have struggled to return to those lofty heights, even after the return of olofmeister, but still managed to consistently place in the top three throughout last year and will always be a threat to any team that doesn’t take them seriously, despite being very out of form going into the Major.
They’ll probably make it to at least the semi-finals, because that’s just what Fnatic do at Major events, but they are going to have to up their game in a big way if they are going to have any hope of winning the event outright.
Liquid have always been a team full of potential, but have never really delivered the results people have expected of them in the past.
It is impossible to deny the talents of the likes of nitr0 and EliGE, but the team’s over-reliance on Hiko has long been their biggest drawback. At 19 and 21-years-old respectively, EliGE and nitr0 are still young, but they both have enough top-tier experience to make the above scenario unacceptable.
Hiko is unquestionably one of the most talented CS:GO players to come out of the North America region, but he is yet to pick up a Major win. If that situation doesn’t change soon, he will be known more as one of the best players never to win a Major – and that pressure might have a big impact on his performance in Atlanta.
If nitr0 and EliGE are on song, alongside Hiko, they could have a nice deep run in this tournament, but it feels like a lot of things need to fall into place to make that happen and it’s difficult to see them qualifying for the play-offs.
Na’Vi’s biggest problem, and it is starting to feel like it always will be, is consistency. When they are playing well, when everyone is hitting their shots, they are actually unstoppable. Their complete dominance of ESL One New York is testament to that.
But there are also times, when things aren’t going their away, they completely fall apart – and it’s difficult to imagine how they won ESL One New York so easily.
One problem is they may have too many star players, as ridiculous as that may sound, but if they can find a way to amicably share the supporting duties, they will likely be a real force at the ELEAGUE Major.
On pure talent alone, they should be aiming for a spot in the final, but their more recent form suggests they would be fortunate to make the play-offs.
Winners of the last two consecutive Majors, even if it was under two different names, and currently ranked third in the world on HLTV, SK Gaming should be one of the real powerhouses at this event.
However, it may well not turn out that way after the squad went through some internal strife in December – that saw fnx dropped from the roster.
His replacement, Fox, is a fine Counter-Strike player, but there is one concern. He is a specialist with an AWP, like both Coldzera and fallen, and there are not many three AWP set-ups in the current meta.
Regardless, they are one of the favourites to win the event for a reason – and it would take something big to stop them advancing deep into the Major.
VP had an unexpectedly poor showing at the recently concluded World Electronic Sports Games, where they placed third behind teams EnVyUs and Kinguin despite being heavy favourites for the title.
Be that as it may, the Polish outfit has an incredible record at LAN and won three big money tournaments last year, namely ELEAGUE Season 1, DreamHack Bucharest and StarLadder i-League.
VP often benefit from being underestimated going in to big tournaments, but their HLTV ranking of fifth in the world means that is unlikely to be the case this time around.
The Poles are ever so good at LAN, but they will likely struggle to make it past the quarter-finals of the ELEAGUE Major.
The current HLTV number one-ranked team in the world are in the form of their lives arriving in Atlanta, after an almost unbelievable run to close out 2016.
After an incredibly mediocre year, they ended the campaign with a third place finish at the Intel Extreme Masters XI, winning the Esports Championship Series season 2 and placing second at the ELEAGUE Season 2 finals.
They, more than most, would’ve been cursing the break in competitive action over the holiday period, but will no doubt have been practising extra hard to ensure they pick up just where they left off last year.
The one thing they are yet to win is a Major, but they are rightfully one of the favourites going into this one.
FlipSid3 are a bit of a wildcard as far as the eight legend teams go. They earned an automatic spot in this Major with a 5-8th placing at ESL One: Cologne, but have done almost nothing of substance against premier opposition since.
They do come into the ELEAGUE Major in some good form, having picked up first place at DreamHack Leipzig, but it was against second-tier opposition at best, including Fnatic’s academy side.
They arrive in Atlanta as one of the legend teams, but they are unlikely to make it past FaZe in the first round of competition – and probably face a long road in the lower bracket.
Gambit are another side that finished 2016 in good form, picking up first place at DreamHack Winter – as well as cruising through the qualifier for the DreamHack Masters.
The Kazakhstani side has enjoyed a meteoric rise up the HLTV rankings, from 24th midway through last year to 14th – and they will be looking forward to this opportunity to break into the top 10 for the first time in the organisation’s history.
Nobody is expecting them to do much in Atlanta, but that just may be what they need to catch a few teams off guard. If they can get past North in the first round, expect them to spring a few more surprises on the way to a quarter-final birth.
FaZe may not have earned an automatic place at the ELEAGUE Major, but they really impressed by blitzing through the opposition in the qualifier, going 3-0 against Cloud9, Optic Gaming (who are also at this event) and Immortals to easily earn their place in Atlanta.
On top of that, they also qualified for DreamHack Masters earlier this month by beating FlipSid3 Tactics, who are also at this event 2-1, so they will have no doubts about their ability to mix it with the big teams at the Major.
They will have FlipSid3 in Round 1 of the competition and will be favourites to win that one, given recent history, but they may still struggle to get past the third round, unless they get some big performances out of karrigan.
The Swedes’ path to this event has been a complicated one, with a roster switch landing them a Legend spot at the event before further changes to their squad saw them lose it again and need to qualify, which they did by beating HellRaisers.
Much was expected from GODSENT after they acquired three star players from Fnatic last year in the form of flusha, JW and KRiMZ. However, their roster has been anything but stable and KRiMZ has since departed the team.
Obviously, the constant chopping and changing to the team has played havoc with their consistency – and they are likely to struggle once again in Atlanta. But there is no doubt they have the talent on their side to beat any team at this event, if they can find their groove.
Mousesports are almost the complete opposite of GODSENT in terms of continuity – and they have barely changed their roster at all over the past 18 months.
The German outfit has never really been considered a top-tier team, despite some good results over the years. The reason for that is they rely almost solely on the performance of star player NiKo.
The formula is simple – if he plays well, they win. If he doesn’t, they don’t. The Bosnian is a joy to behold when he is at the top of his game, but there is no way he can do it for an entire tournament and, without support, he is unlikely to be able to carry them past Na’Vi in the first round.
As a newly-formed team, North have no history coming into the ELEAGUE Major but, in their ex-Dignitas roster they acquired to get their start in CS:GO, they have a wealth of experience – as well as a spot at the Major.
The last time this roster won an event was back in October 2016, when they beat VP at EPICENTER 2016 – and their run of abject results since may have had some role in the side being dropped by Dignitas, even if the official line was that they wanted to acquire a North America-based side.
The Danish outfit will be determined to prove their team owner made the right choice – and a first round date with Gambit may have been about as good as they could have hoped for. However, they are not likely to advance past the second or third round of competition.
Optic Gaming’s rise over the last 12 months has been nothing short of phenomenal. Their first appearance in the professional CS:GO scene was in January 2016, after they picked up Canadian team Conquest.
By the end of the year, they were the top-ranked NA team on HLTV – and are currently ranked second in the world.
They beat Astralis to win ELEAGUE Season 2 and then lost to them at the Esports Championship Series Season 2 finals – and another meeting between the top two-ranked teams in the world at the ELEAGUE Major is a wonderful prospect.
They have the talent and form to go deep into this event – and a place in the semi-finals should be the least they are aiming for.
EnVyUs are another team difficult to read going into Atlanta. On the one hand they claimed first place at the recently concluded WESG, winning $800,000 in the process, but have struggled against top-tier teams in almost every other event they have competed in over the last year.
The French team and their fans will be bursting with confidence, but a tough first round match against Liquid could see their bubble popped early on in the competition.
Another French team with a ton of pedigree, but not a lot of good performances to show for it in recent times. G2 last won in June last year, and have struggled to maintain their status as a top-tier side since.
G2 will have a lot to prove in Atlanta and certainly have the players, in the shape of shox and ScreaM, to pull off an upset or two. But an opening round match against Fnatic means they probably will not have much of an impact on the ELEAGUE Major beyond the second round.
The HellRaisers have always flirted with the border between top- and second-tier as a side – and are consistently ranked in HLTV’s top 20 teams, but they rarely come right at big events.
That said, they knocked out some big names in the qualifiers, namely Cloud9 and Ninjas in Pyjamas – and will be looking to show everyone they belong among the best 16 teams in the world at the Major.
Unfortunately, they are up against SK Gaming in round one – and will almost certainly find themselves in the lower bracket, making it incredibly difficult to advance beyond the second round.